Paper Mario: Color Splash was among the lengthier game showcases of today’s Nintendo Treehouse Live E3 showcase, and it should come as no surprise, considering how zany and massive Mario’s latest RPG adventure looks to be shaping up! We already heard during E3 that Paper Mario: Color Splash is releasing on October 7th, exclusively for Wii U, and today saw lots of gameplay and story details from the game revealed for the first time, following the game’s initial announcement during the company’s previous Nintendo Direct broadcast.
Originally, Mario and Princess Peach, along with a Toad companion, are drawn to Prism Island from someone mailing Mario a flat, colourless Toad. It seems funny, but it’s likely very ominous by the standards of this universe! When the gang arrives, and sees that Prism Island’s famous rainbow fountain appears to be dead and out of commission, some quick investigating has Mario uncovering a paint can, which he whacks with his hammer! Surprisingly, that paint can turns out to be alive, and he’s none too happy that Mario woke him up! This is the protecting deity of Prism Island, believe it or not, and his name is Huey. He also accompanies Mario throughout his latest quest.
Huey charges up Mario’s hammer with a special power that turns it into the Paint Hammer, which, as the game’s initial announcement suggested, is crucial to restoring life and vibrancy to the fading Prism Island. The gameplay seems to serve as a more refined, extra creative version of the ideas that previously founded the series’ main Nintendo 3DS offering (if one doesn’t count this year’s crossover Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam), Paper Mario: Sticker Star, with paint and colours obviously replacing the sticker motif from Paper Mario: Color Splash’s Nintendo 3DS predecessor. Mario uses the Paint Hammer to bring colour to the landscape, which can open paths, expose items, revive dormant citizens, and a few other exploration and puzzle-related functions. Players can’t just swing the Paint Hammer willy-nilly though! A limited supply of primary-coloured paint, i.e. red, yellow and blue paint, manages how much Mario can paint the scenery, and players will need to manage it well to maximize their effectiveness with navigating environments and navigating obstacles. Fortunately, whacking scenery like flowers and trees can net you replacement paint, as can fallen enemies.
Speaking of enemies, Paper Mario: Color Splash has got them, plenty of them! The turn-based, card-style hybrid combat from Paper Mario: Sticker Star makes a comeback in Paper Mario: Color Splash, with Mario being dealt a ‘deck’ of potential attacks, items and skills, and the ability to ‘play’ a certain amount of those cards to perform actions in battle, with players touching and swiping their selections on the Wii U Gamepad Screen. Players can mix and match their skills to try and go for maximum effectiveness in combat, though Paper Mario: Color Splash obviously has a few more wrinkles in battle. For starters, players can opt to paint their cards, using the same limited paint supply that they have to work with during exploration, which can increase the effectiveness of colourless cards, at the cost of consuming paint. Likewise, damage counters are no longer shown when Mario or enemies are attacked, with colour gradually draining out of them as they take more damage, giving players a better visual indicator of exactly how close their enemies are to defeat! Fortunately, Mario has a helpful HP counter at the bottom left corner of the screen, as an easy way to track how he’s doing, though Mario will still keel and quite literally look drained when he’s near defeat too.
Beyond combat and exploration, some minigames were shown as well, proving that they’re frequently present in Paper Mario: Color Splash. Examples shown were Mario having to play hide-and-seek with some Toads during a festival, and then having to play a shell game with them, before identifying them as cheating, netting him a key that lets him proceed on! Mario can also discover hidden Luigi’s throughout Prism Island, which appear to be useful for netting him bonus coins. Players can also activate a function on the Wii U Gamepad Screen during seemingly impassable sections to expose dimensional clefts that players can trace with their stylus (or their finger), transporting Mario ahead. The papercraft in-jokes and scenery-manipulation are more prevalent than ever in Paper Mario: Color Splash, and it’s no wonder, as the game’s producer claims that this is the first time that the developers were able to craft a full, 100% papercraft world, with the previous Paper Mario games being forced to blend papercraft with traditional polygonal models.
Amidst all of the kooky exploration, fun and combat however, the core objective of Paper Mario: Color Splash is to find Paint Stars, which are located at the end of each course (the game is divided into traditional Mario-style level maps and courses, by the look of things), and are used to paint new paths ahead, potentially even opening up new paths in prior locations. The Giant Paint Stars, the greatest colour providers of Prism Island are presumably at the end of each of the island’s sections, and as the demo reveals, they’re held by none other than the Koopalings! This marks the first time that the Koopalings have appeared in a Paper Mario game, and a sample battle with Morton put more advanced battle mechanics into focus, such as carefully interrupting combos to avoid suffering from backlash with attacks that work against minions but not the boss, i.e. jumping on smaller baddies, but not to the point of leaping onto Morton’s spiked shell, which would damage Mario. Mario even makes use of real-world objects, as with Paper Mario: Sticker Star, in the case of this battle by converting a fire extinguisher into a means to extinguish Morton igniting his mallet, and the room itself, in smoke and flames! Using the fire extinguisher, and one other mallet whack, Mario is able to defeat Morton and reclaim that area’s Giant Paint Star!
A small montage shows what looks to be a very large-scale adventure, with Mario doing things like riding a dragon, and manning a ship. There’s clearly a lot to look forward to in Paper Mario: Color Splash, which, if nothing else, certainly looks like the most ambitious Paper Mario game to date! On that note, keep folding Eggplante for all major news and updates on Paper Mario.